BEHIND THE WRITING OF APPROACHING THE SPEED OF LIGHT
Writing is, among other things, a journey of self-discovery. Now that I’ve written three novels, which I think constitutes a critical-enough mass for interpretation!, I have discovered at least two interesting things about myself as a writer:
One – I like challenging myself to write different, and more difficult, books each time. And when I say difficult, I seem to mean in both form and content: I set higher structural and stylistic goals for myself each time; and I seem compelled to write about increasingly complex human concerns…
Two – despite seeking to do something different each time, there is an overall thematic consistency in my work [which I think is true of most writers] in that I seem endlessly fascinated by the varieties, permutations, expressions, and consequences of damage. The multitudinous kinds of damage that humans just cannot help but inflict on themselves and others.
Both of these things I’ve discovered about my writing happen unconsciously. When I set out to conceive of an idea for a book, I start out all sunny and simple, trying to think about what readers seem to want to read, but somewhere along the way, as I take my copious notes on character and story ideas, I find that I’ve once again gone down a darker path…
Case in point… how I came to write Approaching the Speed of Light.
I’d put Stone Creek to bed, but the characters and certain aspects of the story were still careening around my head, in particular the relationship between Lily and Danny. A romantic relationship between a younger man and decade-older woman. Being a woman of a certain age -- and not being overly thrilled about the relatively negative view in our society of aging women as opposed to aging men – I had in mind to explore an older woman/younger man scenario where the age difference was more extreme.
As I noodled on thoughts of what might drive such a relationship for both the woman and the man, I found that while the woman part was easy! [surprise!], it got very complicated when I asked myself serious questions concerning the identity of the younger man. What was his background, what were his needs, his reasons for being drawn to a much older women, etc. etc. And that was when my unconscious took over, the sunny playfulness evaporated, and boom, I saw Jody, a terribly wounded young man desperate to know a kind of love, a kind of peace, that he had never known before in his life.
And with his unbidden appearance center stage in my mind, I realized that the book was about him, that my earlier thoughts had been merely the tease to lead me to the real thing: a story to make us see that if we can’t find a way to break historic patterns of fear and cruelty and learn to treat each other with love and kindness, existence for too many will always be more hell than heaven.
Approaching the Speed of Light took me three and a half years to write. For at least half that time I woke up every morning convinced that I was simply not up to the task of continuing, completing. But every day I’d open my files and find a way to write another sentence, another paragraph, another page. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, living in that world through to the resolution of Jody’s journey. I hope that you’ll choose to take the journey with him, and that you’ll find the trip was worth it.